When I set out to install and test a powered awning system for the HomeToys Demo Home Theater room there were a few driving needs. The main one was that the room in question has 4 floor to ceiling windows facing west … and construction is taking place in the summer! In the past this room has served as my office and in the summer … with internal blinds … I have suffered from afternoon burnout on more than one occasion. Having to desert the office on a sunny summer afternoon is not all bad mind you … but adding a bunch of electronic equipment and using the room to demonstrate technology is another matter.

The only way to keep a south or west facing room cool is to keep the heat out … believe me. I had years of experience as an air conditioning / commissioning engineer working in office buildings with great expanses of glass and the most up to date air conditioning and control systems imaginable. While air systems can struggle to keep the temperature down … it usually results in a drafty uncomfortable environment as well as a big hydro bill at the end of the month. Your home is no different.

The downside of external awnings (to keep the heat out) is that they block the view all the time and can be torn off in a high wind situation. Enter the Somfy-Matic Sun and Wind Controller. This system comes with sensors that detect the sun intensity and wind velocity so that the awning is only down when needed.

Installation is simple enough. The sensors are mounted outside near the awning and wired back to a decora style controller mounted on the wall of the room. The awning motor is wired to a special relay that is controlled by this controller.

Viking Electronics
LED’s (one line for sun one for wind) on the right keypad indicate the intensity as signaled from the sensors. Both setpoints are adjustable on the keypad. When the sun intensity is above setpoint for a preset length of time … the awning comes down (to the physical limit as set on the motor). When the sun intensity drops below the setpoint or the wind velocity rises above it’s setpoint … then the awning goes up. That’s all there is to it.

The left keypad lets you raise and lower the awning to any level you like with the push of a button. Also, a set of external contacts on the motor relay can be connected to an automation system to operate the awning.

I am amazed at the amount of heat that is blocked with a simple awning. A room that was once relegated to uninhabitable on summer afternoons is now cool and crisp even on the sunniest of days. I’ve had the Somfy operating long enough now that I’m confident that it protects the room while I’m not around to attend to the awning.

Sensor location is about the only thing that really needs to be thought about. Make sure the sun sensor is in an open location (not shaded by a wall, tree etc.) and the wind sensor needs to be near the awning so it senses the same wind conditions.

A motorized awning in itself may cost a thousand dollars or more depending on the material and mechanism that you use. For a few hundred dollars more, the Somfy-Matic system adds another dimension and will protect your room while you are away from home.